Recreating the Family Getaway at Whistler’s Wedge Mountain Lodge

Growing up, Keltie Holdsworth revelled in the chaos of a big family. Her grandparents had eight children, who each chose to have three, four, five kids of their own, and the next generation continued the tradition: Holdsworth herself is one of nine.

Summers were spent at the family time-share cottage in Cornwall surfing the breakers generated by the Atlantic southwesterlies that buffet that section of the coast of England. The property’s six bedrooms could barely host half the family, the overflow accommodated by a caravan of tents and makeshift sleeping arrangements. It’s easy to imagine mealtimes requiring the “circuit of cooking and catering” Holdworth describes.

“It really was one of the best childhood experiences having all these cousins coming together,” she says. “And I’ve been searching for a substitute ever since.”

That search has led to Wedge Mountain Lodge & Spa—a 10-bedroom, full-service, oversized villa in Whistler that opened for business at the end of 2023. It’s the third vacation rental property that Holdsworth, her husband Dan, and their business partners have brought to the municipality, and the most ambitious by far.

Dan and Keltie Holdsworth.

Holdsworth came to Canada in December 2007, having decided, after completing a physiology degree, that the family tradition of working in medicine (most of the clan are doctors or dentists) was not for her. Her mother is from Ontario, so heading here for a ski season was a natural route to finding her own path. A year later, she met Dan—a Brit from Yorkshire—when they worked together at the climbing gym.

Coupledom was swift, as was their first foray into business together. Acutely aware of the difficulties faced by young people arriving from across the globe who pitched up in Whistler needing accommodation and basic amenities, they formed Ride On Whistler.

Wedge Mountain Lodge

“Back in the day, you couldn’t even get duvet covers in Whistler,” she explains. “We would go and set up the house for people so they could arrive without worrying. Didn’t matter if they were coming for one month or six months, we would sort out the SIM card for their phone, pick them up from the airport, have a cleaner in once a week so they avoided all those housemate dramas.”

As the business grew, they found themselves being asked to look after people’s houses. They decided to focus on vacation rentals, passing the Ride On Whistler to a former guest and, in 2014, purchased a property that could eventually host up to 24 guests. “We convinced one of our neighbours to invest with us and buy this amazing property in White Gold that we fixed up,” she explains.

It quickly becomes apparent that Holdsworth has a knack for gathering people together and building community. Her former neighbour brought his own friend, construction expert Ian Doddington, onto that first project. Doddington is now part of the Wedge ownership team. In the meantime, Holdsworth coaxed three siblings and Dan’s younger sister Anna to move over here. Anna also joined the company.

“I desperately wanted to stay in Canada,” she notes, “but I didn’t want to build a life here with no family. So we lured a few people in, tried to make it super appealing, and supported them as much as we could.”

Wedge Mountain Lodge

By the time they bought a four-bedroom property in Alta Vista in 2015, they better understood what worked for a successful vacation rental. Here, Holdsworth says, the design was more intentional, more about lifting the aesthetics and comfort. As they were renovating, the idea of building something from scratch where they could incorporate all of their ideas without compromise began percolating.

“That was not my idea,” Holdsworth admits. She wanted to focus on starting a family (her and Dan’s daughter Cora was born in 2017), but knowing that the permits and zoning would take at least a year and—she thought—were likely to fail, she told the partners that if they wanted to, they should go for it.

That meant shovels in the ground as the pandemic began and selling the White Gold house (again to a former guest) to help finance. On the one hand, she notes, the project meant keeping all their employees working throughout shutdowns, but on the other, their original cost projections became meaningless. “We finished building our own house as well as Wedge during the pandemic and across that time rates and expenses in some cases almost doubled. Not an ideal time to be building,” she says. “And, of course, mortgage rates now are not what they were.”

Nevertheless, they are now open, and Holdsworth is proud of what they have achieved. The property boasts a spa—sauna, steam room, hot tub, cold plunge, and swimming pool—games room, a private chef, and staff on call (purpose-built staff accommodation is tucked behind the lodge).

First bookings have included a large family just as Holdsworth had always imagined (they have rebooked for next Christmas), a group comprising several families eager for the extensive concierge services Holdsworth provides, and a handful of corporate events. Interest thus far has required two new staff to handle marketing and corporate enquiries.

“Every day is a surprise,” Holdworth says with a laugh. “The things we thought we would be doing are not the things we are doing. We thought we would be hosting lots of lovely families, some corporate groups, and we thought it would be very straightforward—similar to how the old house was. But we are getting enquiries for events all the time. And events are a lot more complicated than a family vacation—some of the requests are wild.”

Families remain her core passion, but she is enjoying it all and hoping to expand into new markets, including the film industry. The first year of any new business is a steep learning curve and Holdsworth says she is responding quickly to feedback to make guests completely comfortable. There are acoustic dampening panels on order for the cathedral-like ceiling in the main room and plans to add sound-muffling doors to the entrance to the bedroom wing on each level.

It’s a far cry from pitching tents around the family time share in Cornwall, but Holdsworth acknowledges how much higher expectations are now for the comfort and design of vacation rentals. Happily for them, the luxury market is more insulated from economic shifts.

“We didn’t think we were going to go luxury,” she admits. “We thought we would go very nice. Then decisions were made that changed that and in hindsight I think that turned out to be a smart move.”

Photos courtesy of Ki Communications. Read more stories about business.


Post Date:

March 8, 2024